The victory for Virginia’s ex-governor at the U.S. Supreme Court Monday isn’t likely to be of much help to Illinois’ own imprisoned former chief executive, Rod Blagojevich.
Leonard Goodman, Blagojevich’s appellate attorney, said the Supreme Court handed down a “pretty narrow” ruling when it threw out the bribery conviction of former Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell. It revolved around the definition of an “official act” — something he said Blagojevich’s legal team never contested.
But legal experts said the ruling could affect public corruption probes in the future.
Chief Justice John Roberts said McDonnell’s conduct in accepting more than $165,000 in gifts and loans from a wealthy businessman in exchange for promoting a dietary supplement may have been “distasteful” or even “tawdry,” but didn’t necessarily violate federal bribery laws. He agreed with McDonnell that instructions to his trial jury about what constitutes “official acts” was so broad that it could include virtually any action a public official might take while in office.
Blagojevich, 59, was convicted of 18 counts over two trials, including that he attempted to trade his power to appoint someone to a U.S. Senate seat in exchange for personal benefits. He is serving a 14-year sentence in Colorado. However, a three-judge appellate panel tossed five convictions last year revolving around the attempted sale of the Senate seat. The Supreme Court declined to hear Blagojevich’s appeal earlier this year, and he is set to be resentenced Aug. 9.